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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 05.10.11] review horror cult thriller

Year: 2010
Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Francis Ford Coppola
Amazon Link
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Movie Rating: 6 out of 10
Blu-ray Rating: 5.5 out of 10

I've seen Dementia 13 a number of times, but was particularly interested to check it out on Blu-ray. Like a lot of American International Pictures releases, Dementia 13 is public domain which means there's been numerous releases on VHS and DVD - each seemingly worse than the last. No one has really taken the time to remaster the film for digital, but now that HD Cinema Classics and Film Chest have swooped in I figured we might be seeing something really special here. Something on the level of what Shout!, Severin or Blue Underground are doing. Alas, this is not the case. While this latest Blu-ray release of the film is the best I've seen - remastered from the original 35mm print long thought lost - it is hampered by a soft image transfer and a few instances of noise and image tracing. But, as I say, this is still the best the film has ever looked and I doubt we'll see better.

As the short version of the story goes, a young Francis Ford Coppola (who ixnay's the "Ford" for this one) wanted to make a film so he convinced Roger Corman to give him 20 grand and allow him to reuse sets that were from The Young Racers which he was ADing for. Corman agreed, and Coppola's Dementia 13 was born.

A decidedly Hitchcockian who-dun-it with obvious nods to Psycho, Dementia 13 is about a family that congregates to their Irish ancestral home, Castle Haloran, to mourn their sister Kathleen who drowned in the pond when she was a child. Secrets shroud the sister's demise and while one woman searches to discover the truth, an axe murderer starts to go on the rampage and heads will roll!

Being a fan of European films, you can tell that Coppola was more interested in nice shot composition than carnage and I think a lot of the more grisly scenes from the film can be attributed to director Jack Hill (House on Haunted Hill) who was brought on to shoot additional scenes of violence when Copolla failed to deliver on his promise of boobs and blood to Corman. Luckily Hill is himself a great director and inserted scenes add that Hitchkockian fetishism any horror film needs.

The Blu-ray includes a 5.1 Surround remix which is nice, but there are no special features on the disc worth noting. I'm sure Coppola has disowned the film, but I'm surprised there wasn't comment from Corman who's always up to talk about his spotted history mentoring cinema's greats.

I would go so far as to say that Dementia 13 is a somewhat forgotten classic. It's a little dull at points, but it's well lensed and sits up there with other lauded films of the era like The Haunting or even Carnival of Souls. If you like the era and haven't yet seen Dementia 13 you should be seeing this version.

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